Recruit Smarter is a multi-sector initiative of the Victorian Government and Melbourne University to develop inclusive recruitment practices and address unconscious bias in recruitment.
Internationally, Recruit Smarter is the first initiative of its kind, contributing findings to a growing body of research demonstrating the benefits of inclusive workplaces.
46 organisations across the public, private, non-government, and research sectors contributed to Recruit Smarter and its findings.
Australia’s population is growing and becoming more diverse, with people from all cultures, abilities and walks of life calling Australia home and contributing to our identity and way of life.
As Australia continues to grow, it is important that we ensure that our diversity is reflected in our workforce. However, job seekers from diverse backgrounds often face barriers when seeking employment. This leads to issues such as underemployment and unemployment, which can have adverse flow on effects for our economic productivity and our community wellbeing.
A key barrier to employment faced by diverse jobseekers is the impact of unconscious bias, which refers to judgements and assessments formed outside of our conscious awareness. Unconscious bias is based on our beliefs, past experiences and our cultural context and can influence the decisions we make in our work, including decisions around who we choose to hire.
Recognising these issues, Recruit Smarter was initiated by the Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet in partnership with Melbourne University as a multi-sector research initiative to develop inclusive recruitment practices and address unconscious bias in hiring.
Recruit Smarter was implemented over two years around three strategic priorities and objectives:
• Real world trials: trialling new approaches to inclusive recruitment through real-world workplace trials and interventions of measures such as CV de-identification and blind recruitment, targeted language in job advertising, and unconscious bias training.
• Synthesise the latest research with on the ground experience to develop best practice for inclusive recruitment: specialist researchers and human resources professionals from 22 cross-sector organisations collaborated over 12 months to review and analyse the latest research on human resources practices and combine it with their own on-the-ground expertise to develop practical, best practice guidelines for inclusive recruitment.
• Sharing knowledge and learnings about what has and has not worked across sectors and in workplaces: participating organisations shared knowledge and learnings about inclusive recruitment practices and measures they had implemented in their organisations and sectors through free, ‘TED’ style public forums and lectures. Knowledge Sharing Seminar audiences were privy to exclusive research and insights on diversity in the workplace and inclusive recruitment from leading researchers and some of Australia’s most prominent firms and non-government organisations. Topics ranged from targeted recruitment for people with disabilities, to gamification in recruitment; implementation of all roles flex; and a review of recent trends in employment discrimination law.
In total, 46 organisations participated in, and contributed to the delivery and findings of the Recruit Smarter initiative, representing a broad range of sectors including legal services; banking and finance; human resources and recruitment; professional and consulting services; energy; not-for-profit, community, and peak body; and government.
Recruit Smarter was successful across all strategic objectives:
• Evaluations of new recruitment approaches showed positive outcomes, with CV de-identification demonstrating improved shortlisting and hiring prospects for women in male-dominated roles, overseas-born job applicants, and applicants residing in lower socioeconomic areas.
• Additionally, targeted advertising improved recruitment and employment outcomes for applicants from priority groups, while unconscious bias training increased self-efficacy and intentions for diversity-supportive practices.
• Collaborative engagement between sector and organisational representatives led to the development of best practice guidelines that brought together the latest human resources research with the on-the-ground multi-sector expertise of human resources professionals to support diversity and inclusion in recruitment practices and workplaces.
• Finally, the Knowledge Sharing Seminars attracted nearly 1000 people across 12 months and brought to light the value of diversity and inclusion by showcasing innovative approaches to improving workplace and workforce diversity and inclusion, and by highlighting key issues and barriers faced by jobseekers.
Recruit Smarter delivered its report of findings in October 2018. The Victorian Government has made all findings, including the outcomes of the field trials of recruitment practices, the best practice guidelines, and summaries of the Knowledge Sharing Seminars publicly available as a resource and available for digital download.
The findings are intended to serve as a diversity and inclusion resource for all industries and sectors to inform and support their workplace and recruitment practices. A technical report outlining the trial and research methodologies has also been released for specialists, researchers, and human resources practitioners.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Recruit Smarter was the first multi-sector policy initiative of its kind. The initiative brought together 46 organisations and over 300 executives and human resources professionals from across the public, private, non-government and research sectors to co-design and test ways to address unconscious bias in recruitment and develop inclusive recruitment practices.
Recruit Smarter was unique in its model of cross-sector collaborative research and policy design. This model effectively broke down the traditional silos of government policy research and development by promoting shared ownership and responsibility of the policy design and development process with initiative partners from across different sectors.
Recruit Smarter drew on the influence, expertise and shared knowledge and learnings of participating organisations to deliver innovative, high quality research findings, and develop cross-cutting policy and best practice guidelines on inclusive recruitment applicable to all sectors.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The Recruit Smarter program of work was designed to:
• Source knowledge and expertise from across sectors to collaboratively generate and design solutions to the problem of unconscious bias in recruitment;
• implement these processes in participating organisations, embedding them into real-world recruitment processes;
• evaluate the efficacy of these initiatives in improving recruitment success for job applicants; and
• broadly share and promote the findings and outcomes from the program of work to provide a resource that organisations can use to implement the findings.
The Recruit Smarter Report of Findings was released as a public resource in October 2018. The Report details the findings and outcomes of the research trials, the initiative’s unique model of cross-sector collaborative design, and includes the Best Practice Guidelines for inclusive recruitment developed by a working group of researchers and human resources professionals from 22 cross-sector organisations.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Recruit Smarter involved 46 cross-sector partner organisations who contributed to the initiative’s findings and outcomes. The Department of Premier and Cabinet Victoria was responsible for initiating the program and partnerships, and driving and coordinating the initiative’s delivery. Melbourne University designed the initiative’s research and evaluation framework and led its implementation. 44 partner organisations participated in trials, provided expertise, facilities, and resources and data.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Participating organisations, researchers, and diverse communities benefited from the research findings and insights the initiative delivered on inclusive approaches to recruitment, available through resources such as the Report of Findings, and the Best Practice Guidelines on Inclusive Recruitment.
Government benefited from the insights gained from implementing a new model of cross-sector collaboration on research and policy through the Recruit Smarter model of multi-sector engagement.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Recruit Smarter achieved three key priorities:
• Changes to recruitment, including CV de-identification, unconscious bias training, and targeted recruitment benefitted underrepresented applicants. Women, overseas-born applicants, and applicants from low socioeconomic areas benefited from CV de-identification with boosts to shortlisting, interviewing, and hiring outcomes, while applicants from priority groups were more likely to be reached by targeted recruitment and progressed further in their applications.
• Collaborative engagement by representatives from participating organisations led to the development of best practice guidelines to support diversity and inclusion in workplaces by drawing on the latest research and on-the-ground knowledge and expertise from across participating sectors.
• Knowledge Sharing Seminars drew attention to the value of diversity and inclusion, showcasing innovative approaches to recruitment, and highlighting key issues and barriers faced by jobseekers.
Challenges and Failures
Organisational change – staff movements and organisational changes affected continuity of the program of work and muddied communication at times, leading to difficulties in accurately interpreting evaluation outcomes.
Sound project management was required to ensure that record keeping, administrative processes, and decisions were effectively tracked over the lifetime of the project.
Strengths and limitations of the participating organisations needed to be carefully considered when developing the program of work to ensure mutual benefit to all parties, and to avoid any potential risks to the organisation or the project.
Ensure communication across stakeholders is consistent and easily accessible, and provide regular updates on project progress. Recognise performance and delivery of outcomes, and highlight any challenges encountered to ensure they can be taken into consideration and mitigated by all stakeholders.
Conditions for Success
Engage senior leadership: Senior organisational leaders have the influence to prioritise and drive engagement, foster organisational buy-in, and allocate resources to ensure commitments can be delivered at the operational level.
Foster intra-project networks: Create opportunities for stakeholders to network and work together. This provides the project with internal drive and momentum and facilitates collaboration, innovative thinking and shared ownership of outputs and outcomes.
Present a united voice: Develop key messaging, project narratives, and agreed terminology, and review and update regularly. Ensure external facing communication is consistent by establishing agreed strategic communications protocols with partner organisations.
Don’t overcomplicate project governance: Keep project governance as simple as possible to maintain project agility around authorisation, implementation and reporting.
There is significant potential to replicate the model of multi-sector collaborative engagement used to deliver the Recruit Smarter initiative. The various insights and principles noted at 6.3 (Conditions for Success) and 6.5 (Lessons Learned) outline the conditions for successfully replicating this model to investigate, develop and deliver research and policy. Recruit Smarter was a large scale project with many participants, however the principles can also be applied to smaller scale projects with fewer actors.
Understand the partner organisations: when exploring engagements, work with organisations to understand their current and forecasted strengths and limitations. This will provide all parties with an indication of how the organisation might contribute to a program of work in an effective and mutually beneficial way. Discuss the organisation’s priorities and strategic goals for engagement, and any potential risks to the organisation or the project in their participation.
Account for programs and strategies already underway: existing work underway within organisations can cause duplication or have an unforeseen influence on the direction and outcomes of engagement.
Maintain regular intra-project communication: ensure communication across stakeholders is consistent and easily accessible, and provide regular updates on project progress. Recognise performance and delivery of outcomes, and highlight any challenges encountered to ensure they can be taken into consideration and mitigated by all stakeholders.
Foster intra-project networks Create opportunities for stakeholders to network and work together. This provides the project with internal drive and momentum and facilitates collaboration, innovative thinking and shared ownership of outputs and outcomes.
Present a united voice: develop key messaging, project narratives, and agreed terminology, and review and update regularly. Ensure external facing communication is consistent by establishing agreed strategic communications protocols with partner organisations
Sound project management is critical: Sound project coordination, record keeping, and administrative processes are critical to ensure effective tracking of responsibilities and commitments, implementation progress, and overall engagement across partner organisations.